Monday, February 19, 2018

Guest Post from Allen McDonnell - "The Exundation of 1939"

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

In what came to be the turning point of so called Western Civilization the Pope personally warned Benito Mussolini about the vision he had received early in the month of February 1939 that all ships needed to be far out to sea on Ash Wednesday. In the normal course of events the Catholic nations tended to have most of their ships in port on Ash Wednesday so that the crews could more easily participate in the sacrament that marked the beginning of Lent. The pope also warned the French, Portuguese and other predominantly Catholic countries like Poland via communication between himself and the heads of state of each power. Some, like Benito Mussolini, took the warning to heart and ordered their navies and merchant fleet to be at sea at least 100 km from any shore. Others like France had intended to ignore the warning but when they discovered the powerful Italian fleet had set every movable ship out to sea they scrambled to get their own ships to sea in order to be prepared for any sneak attack which might be in the offing.
Finally believing it was his Christian duty to warn all mankind, the pope issued a proclamation on February 19th, 1939, urging that all good Catholics and other Christians should have their ships at sea for the next week because God was going to preform a miracle and that they would regret it deeply if their ships were in port during Lent.

Stalin openly scoffed at the proclamation and ordered all of his ships to make for port in defiance of the advice. Hitler initially planned to do the same, but once Stalin had made such a big deal out of ordering his navy to port he decided a 'training exercise' was in order and commanded his navy and merchant shipping to all leave port ASAP and rendezvous at an undisclosed location south of Iceland.

With Germany and Italy putting everything to sea the other European powers almost unanimously decided that getting their fleets out to sea 'just in case' was the wisest course of action. In Catholic South America the Brazilian, Argentine and Chilean fleets had all also deployed at the advice of the pope and even the small navy of Mexico had joined in the general deployment though they all did so strictly on faith. The pope said it was God's warning they should follow and in these very catholic nations the people in control knew if they disobeyed the warning and something bad happened as a result the populations of their countries would rise up and overthrow them for letting it happen.

In the USA, none of the government officials took the warning very seriously, including the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Leahy, but when every other navy including the British and French fleets deployed he felt it was prudent to put most of the American fleet to sea in response. While the US Navy did have replenishment ships of its own the Merchant Marine was totally independent in peacetime and whether a shipping company ordered its vessels to sea was an individual decision.

Much to the shock of the world at 6 PM in Jerusalem on February 21, 1939, the Great Exundation began. At first nobody noticed because God is a loving Father, but at 7 PM world sea level had fallen five inches. By 6 AM the Mediterranean Sea level had fallen five feet. For the people who live inland this could have been mistaken for the tide going out, but any experienced sailor in the Mediterranean knew that low tide was never more than a foot below mean sea level in the region because the small size of the water exchange at Gibraltar meant not that much water could move in and out of the basin in a tidal cycle. Exundation was even more obvious in Washington D.C. where the Washington Navy Yard routinely recorded tide levels and their records showed that as the regular tide went out sea levels on the edge of the basin fell much further and faster than normal, and when the tide came back in it peaked five feet below the expected value. If the Exundation continued for even a few days ships in port would be stuck in the mud on rapidly drying land instead of floating in the sea.

At London Bridge on the Thames River in the center of the ancient city the change was even more obvious because the tidal range on the Thames was three times larger than that on the Potomac in North America. The low tide this far up stream from the North Sea had been three feet above mean sea level and this had dropped to two feet below mean sea level while the highest tide expected that night had been 22 feet above mean sea level and had only risen to 17 feet. At this distance from the sea the river channel was nearly 60 feet deep to the bottom which was about 57 feet below mean sea level. The city of London was 115 feet above mean sea level the day before the Exundation began.

At 6 PM on Ash Wednesday in Jerusalem world sea level had fallen ten feet from its previous average and it showed no sign of the Exundation stopping. Those Captains who had been in port Ash Wednesday morning who still had vessels afloat had put to sea even if they were not really prepared for sailing wherever possible. For the Soviet navy however everyone had feared telling Stalin his decision had placed the fleet in danger and when they finally brought the news to him he had refused to believe it until his personal envoy traveled to Leningrad and confirmed what was happening. By the time the report came back it was too late for the Baltic fleet, the waters in the harbor were just too shallow at that end of the Gulf of Finland and the ships were all well stuck in the mud by the time Stalin ordered his navy to sail. The only place the USSR had not lost any naval vessels was the Black Sea fleet where the Admiral had realize the Exundation was taking place and had ordered his ships to weigh anchor and relocate in deeper water maintaining their relative distance from the new shoreline. As a result when the sailing orders came his ships were able to spread out into the central Black Sea easily. In the far North and far east a few larger ships were stranded but the harbors had been deep enough that the 36 hour delay in sailing orders had not trapped them all.

Image courtesy XKCD's "What If?"
The Exundation continued hour by hour and day by day for forty nights, and forty days. Finally at 6 PM on Palm Sunday the Exundation ended as if it had never begun. World mean sea level had fallen a total of 400 feet from where it had existed for the prior two millennia. The parallels with the Great Flood of Noah were blatant and only a dedicated atheist could deny that they existed. An even greater parallel exists in that the inhabited coastal regions around the world find themselves in a steady drizzle of rain, gently rinsing everything for the entire 40 days but not slowing Exundation in the slightest.

London was now one more city in Continental Europe because the British Isles were now surrounded by land on all sides extending west of Ireland and north of Scotland even capturing the Shetland Islands. The Thames river now merged into the Rhine and the larger river meandered north on the east side of the hills which were once Dogger Bank half way between the hills and the Jutland Peninsula until it reached the new Gulf of Skagerrak just south of Norway. The Baltic Sea had fallen greatly in level, with the passage between Copenhagen and Sweden now a dry valley leaving the city landlocked. However the remaining passage between the Baltic and the Skagerrak passed between the wider Jutland peninsula and the former island of Sjaelland now attached to Sweden from Copenhagen all the way to the new river valley that drained the shrunken Baltic. This left the nation of Denmark with much more land than before, but with a much longer border with Germany on the south and for the first time land connection with Sweden to the east and Great Britain to the west. Negotiation of the new borders was an immediate concern. The Baltic and North seas had for all useful purposes ceased to exist and were now dry, and presumably valuable, land. As the sea level fall had been relatively gentle, in effect lowering the high tide on every cycle until the exposed shore had declined down 400 feet, the rainfall had rinsed the slight salt content of the new land away even as it was exposed. Bird dropped seeds had sprouted endless seeming acres of weeds and grasses on the newly exposed land and these were sprouting even as the many nations bickered over where the new borders should be drawn. The eventual consensus in the League of Nations was to draw the new border equidistant from the prior borders of the land which had existed before the Exundation.

This left the Denmark/Sweden border just east of the now landlocked Copenhagen in the valley which now sat where the sea passage had previously been. On the south this was effectively an extension of the old Germany/Denmark border using the same standards on both sides of the wider Jutland peninsula while in the west it was half way between old England and the same former peninsula which meant the enlarge Rhine now flowed through Denmark before the Thames merged into it to pass into old England. With the lower sea level the Thames had shrunken greatly in the area through London, no longer nearly 60 feet deep it was now closer to 20 in mid channel. There was just as much fresh water as before, but now the intrusion of sea water from below no longer buoyed it up to greater depth.

In North West America an even greater change had taken place with the drying of the Bering Sea placing Alaska and Siberia in direct contact. On the Arctic side of Alaska the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea were now dry land, albeit very cold dry land, and in Canada the Canadian Archipelago of arctic islands was now a peninsula bordering on the deep regions of the Arctic Ocean. The Baffin Passage and sea and much of Hudson's Bay had also drained away leaving Greenland island now a peninsula of North America. Further south in Canada the independent colony of Newfoundland was now a peninsula jutting from the south east coast of Labrador and Quebec and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence had likewise narrowed into the Saint Lawrence River for most of its area. The only ports in North America unaffected by the exundation had been those on the Great Lakes, all of which were already well above sea level and isolated from the worlds oceans by the Saint Lawrence river. With some dredging to make sure sea going ships could make it all the way to Lake Ontario the ports of Rochester, New York and Toronto, Ontario were the first major ports back in business for international traffic. The old Erie Canal extending from Buffalo to Albany New York was also able to deploy barge traffic down the now much longer Hudson river to the new coastline of the Atlantic Ocean by midsummer. The great cities of the east coast now found themselves landlocked from dozens to hundreds of miles inland from the sea. Ships that had been under construction or in dry docks for major repairs were likewise now located dozens to hundreds of miles from the sea. Miami Florida was landlocked but not badly because the channel between Florida and the former Bahamas was still a sliver of water between, but the Gulf Coast of Florida was effectively now nearly 223 miles in average width where it had been 95 before exundation. Miami became the first American port city outside of the Great Lakes able to provide dock space to the thousands of ships stuck at sea for lack of docks.

For every major industrialized nation outside of the USA and Canada the building of new ports on their new coastlines delayed shipping for many months. The USA and Canada were also engaged in this rebuilding effort because every port outside of the Great lakes had to be replaced, as did naval bases. Army and Air corp bases suffered no losses, but the huge naval complex at Philadelphia where the US Navy built and repaired many of its ships was now 400 feet above sea level and nearly a hundred miles as the aircraft flew from the newly formed coastline. The Exundation in Louisiana and Texas ended crude oil exports instantly because the big oil tankers could no longer get to the ports where the pipelines could fill their cargo tanks. This was a major blow to the European economy as well as Japan because both regions were major importers of American crude oil. Just as bad the Persian Gulf had itself become dry desert land creating a much greater barrier between middle eastern oil and export. The same was true of the Indonesian colonies of the Dutch which had been a major oil supply and cash supply for The Netherlands, again ended at least in the short run by lack of access. The worlds third largest exporter, Venezuela, was similarly troubled in South America.

The Industrialized world, just recovering from the Great Depression, was unable to quickly deal with the new crisis. Italy for example now has a massive new area of land because to the north half of the Adriatic Sea is now dry land creating a much longer border with Yugoslavia. At the same time Sicily is now attached by land, Sardinia has grown and merged with French Corsica and the colonies in Libya and Tunis are extended hundreds of miles further north in the new dry land of North Africa. The British Empire is badly mauled by the fact that the Suez Canal is now high and dry in the desert and re-excavation is simply not a realistic option. The Straits of Gibraltar and the passage to the Black Sea are still open but both are narrower and carry swifter currents. In addition to the changes in the Adriatic Sea the Aegean Sea that created the unique Greek culture on hundreds of islands is now dry land and the islands are mountains in that vast plain.

In Central America, the land changes are just as remarkable. the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico has doubled in size, Nicaragua has a new land area 30% larger than before and narrow Panama has grown nearly 50%. Of course like the Suez the canal named for the country is no longer functional and whether it can be extended in both direction to reach the sea is an open question for later times. On the bright side a new archipelago has formed between Nicaragua and Jamaica, a scattering of Islands that much resemble the Bahamas. Speaking of the Bahamas much like Florida their area has effectively doubled and instead of dozens of islands separated by water they are now a handful of much larger islands connecting groupings of the former scattered collection. Cuba has also expanded nearly 40% and only a narrow passage now separates it from the new Big Bahama island to its north east. Directly north a new island sits between Florida and Cuba with Cuba laying claim to it and the USA not disputing the claim because it it nearly all beyond the old half way point between the two countries. Puerto Rico has grown to nearly double its former size and includes the Virgin islands now landlocked with it to the east and Mona island to the west leaving just a narrow passage between the expanded island and Hispaniola Island, which is nearly unchanged gaining just a few percent of land around its steep coastlines.

Most of the Caribbean islands have grown substantially, often merging into larger islands including several small islands together into larger landmasses. This is not a great cultural change until you approach northern South America where the islands of Trinidad and Tobago now find themselves part of the continent where Venezuela is eager to incorporate them into itself. At the time of Exundation Venezuela had the third largest oil producing nation on Earth and though it is now cut off from easily shipping oil and refined products to the rest of the world it is still quite able to haul oil and products overland to its neighbors. It also doesn't take long to extend barge capability down the longer rivers creating the ability to use coastal barge traffic to haul the same crude or fuel to neighboring countries more cheaply. Trinidad is more or less conquered as soon as it becomes attached to Venezuela because the government wants to exploit is oil resources and add them to Venezuela's own ASAP. With the drying of Lake Maracaibo and the Gulf of Venezuela additional oil drilling in areas that used to be submerged is greatly simplified and will lead to additional oil production within a few years, as will test drilling in likely locations throughout the newly dried coast regions.

Further along the coast Brazil and its northern neighbors outside of Venezuela gain modestly while to the south Uruguay adds nearly 40% to its surface area while Argentina is massively expanded as well. This does present the difficulty of making Buenos Aries and Montevideo landlocked cities, but this is the breadbasket of South America and the expansion of the fertile prairies into what was the South Atlantic is of great benefit. Fortunately for the people of South America very little that they import is actually crucial to their economies. Exporting grain and livestock to Europe in exchange for manufactured goods had served them well, but a lack of radios or even cars was not a major blow so long as everyone was well fed and healthy. Between the great widening of Argentina to the east and the doubling in size of the disputed Falkland/Malvina Islands the British colony now finds itself physically attached to Argentina. However little actually changes because with so much of an increase in territory the Argentinian's are much too busy to worry about the old claims in the short term. The islands of Tierra Del Fuego shared between Argentina and Chile are also greatly expanded though other than increasing ranch land for the Llama and Sheep ranchers this also has little immediate effect other than the closing of the Straits of Magellan.

The fertile Nile Delta has slumped outward into the new basin and the river is cutting its way down through the accumulated silt to the new sea level destroying the Egyptian breadbasket and washing away all the farmland for the last 50 miles of the Nile river valley. Unless something happens quickly the ancient famine will be visited on Egypt once again, and this time the Muslim majority will be blaming the Christian minority because the Pope was the one who prophesied the warning.

For Africa the greatest effects were in the northern coast as already discussed but a few notable exceptions do exist to the 'not much changes' rule. The Canary, Madeira and Azores islands off the north west coast generally find themselves gathered into much larger islands incorporating several or even many of the smaller pre existing islands. In the furthest south South Africa gains a new fertile plain extending the country as much as 80 miles from its old coastline and in the north east the Red Sea is shrunken with a narrow passage at the south end still connecting it to the Indian Ocean while in the north the entire Gulf of Suez from whence the canal had gotten its name is dry parched desert. Madagascar and the small island groups near it also benefit somewhat with the small island groups forming three larger islands much as took place off the opposite corner shore in the Atlantic.

Asia undergoes the greatest changes of all. Already the largest continent Asia now extends nearly 200 miles closer to the North Pole where Siberia has expanded northward. Along the east coast massive new dry lands are formed south of Beringia incorporating Sakhalin and the four main Japanese islands in a long volcanic arc that attaches to South Korea and China at its southern extent. This turns the Sea of Japan into an inland sea with rivers winding out through the gaps on the north and south ends of Honshu. If the Exundation is permanent this sea may become a new Black Sea with salty anoxic water in the lower basin covered by a brackish to nearly fresh surface layer fed by the rivers flowing down from Manchuria and the mountains surrounding the sea. The Yellow Sea and East China Sea are now broad expanses of freshly exundated land crossed by the ancient Chinese rivers. This land more than doubles the highly fertile Chinese lowlands which already support 600,000,000 rice farmers with their water buffalo drawn plows. Taiwan is an island no longer, now a mountainous plateau at the edge of this fertile territory and the Ryuku islands controlled by Japan further out to sea have gathered their clusters into new larger islands as has been seen with so many of the archipelago groups around the world.

While the Japanese main islands are no longer islands these smaller groups remain detached from the Asian mainland. Further south the expansion of Asia has brought Hong Kong and Hainan islands into the continent and the draining of the Gulf of Tonkin, Gulf of Siam and the Java Sea have tripled the size of French Indochina and merged the three main islands of the Dutch East Indies, Sumatra, Java and Borneo into Indochina. Even more surprising the additions to Borneo have captured the islands between that massive island and the Philippines forming all that formerly diverse territory into a massive new peninsula extending northeast from Borneo with the Sulu Sea a captive sea much in the guise of the Sea of Japan further north. A few of the eastern islands of the Dutch Indonesian colony escape incorporation into Asia like Celebes and Ceram, but the giant island of New Guinea split between the British in the east and Dutch in the west is now incorporated into Australia becoming the new northern end of the expanded island continent. In South Asia the Bay of Bengal is slightly shrunken adding territory to Burma and India; which now incorporates the island of Ceylon as its southern tip. The Arabian Sea is slightly smaller and as already discussed the Persian Gulf is now a dusty desert plain between Arabia and Iran.

Australia is changed almost beyond recognition, now extending north past what used to be the island of New Guinea with the Gulf of Carpentaria and Arafua sea completely drained and the Timor Sea shrunken to leave a much narrower body of water between the continent and the island of Timor in the indies. In the south the coast goes further south greatly increasing the fertile region for European crops and Tasmania is no longer a lone island but now part of continental main mass.

New Zealand is no longer two large islands in the company of dozens of smaller ones, instead it is one very large island extending slightly further north, east and west and considerably further south. The associated islands all progressed through the conglomeration effects with the two main Chatham islands becoming one larger island and the Auckland islands forming one larger island.

Across the broad pacific this same scenario is played out many times with small islands and nearby islets being gathered together by the Exundation effect to form one or more much larger islands. In Hawaii the famous Pearl Harbor is left high and dry and the island of Molokai is nearly doubled in size by the exposure if its western half known as the Penguin Bank to fishermen. As a general rule however the Hawaiian Island chain have very steep slopes below the water line so the total additional territory in general only extends outward a handful of miles and with the exception of Molokai none of the islands is remarkably enlarged or gathered together with recognized islands to form a new larger island.

Last but not least, in the little explored continent of Antarctica every ice shelf floating on the edges of the continent become hard grounded ice sheets indistinguishable from the vast dome of ice covering the interior. Because the Exundation took place late in Antarctic summer and early fall the loosely floating sea ice was at its minimum extent, but what remained was mostly grounded on the now exposed Antarctic continental shelf covering the freshly exposed mud in a meter of stranded sea ice. As a result as the fall progressed and winter set in fresh snow falling on the newly exposed shelf fell onto this freshwater ice and started easily accumulating in place.

Because the new land has been under a spring drizzle for the entire Exundation it is very wet and impassable on the night of Palm Sunday however April 3, 1939 dawns with bright sunshine and starts rapidly drying up the Exundated land to more normal condition. League of Nations diplomats had already agreed upon the new border arrangements having rapidly negotiated them during the preceding nearly six weeks as an emergency measure, but once the Exundation ceases and everyone can see where the new borders lay Hitler is no longer willing to be satisfied with his modest gains.

The proposed new borders of Germany left Hitler's nation landlocked with the UK/Denmark division of the former north sea and the French/UK border following the center of the former English Chanel from the Belgium-Dutch/UK line to where the Seine river crosses the line of the Channel Islands. From that point west their is a cut out to include the former islands in the UK, then the border is Hurd's Deep canyon. The Seine enters Hurd's Deep north of the Channel Islands, trapped by the the now exposed Hurd's Deep canyon. From west of the former islands the new agreement follows the Seine through the canyon all the way to the now distant Atlantic.

The issue is while Hitler can accept a border half way into the Baltic Valley (former sea) between Germany/Denmark-Sweden on his east accepting a similar agreement to the west with the German border synonymous with the Belgian-Dutch border and crossing over to the Denmark/German border leaves Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany just as landlocked as Luxembourg or Hungary.

Unwilling to concede and give up even his moderate naval ambitions Hitler orders the Wermacht to conquer Denmark and incorporate it into Greater Germany. While war with the UK and France is still undesirable beating up on Denmark not only restores his access to the Norwegian Sea, it also effectively doubles the size of 1933 Germany by adding half of the North Sea Basin to the gains already made in the dry Baltic extensions. June 20, 1939, Hitler declares war on Denmark and his forces invade, carefully stopping in the Baltic valley at the new Sweden/Denmark border but advancing in the Jutland Peninsula and Dry Seas to the west until they reach the Skagerrak Gulf and Norwegian Sea. The UK and France are appalled by German aggression and teeter on the edge of declaring war but developments had been too rapid for the governments to have guaranteed the new territorial integrity agreed to in the League of Nations as being worth going to war. The UK was now also face to face with the fact that the Royal Navy was no longer a shield between itself and Continental Europe. From a point just east of Hurd's Canyon all the way to the Norwegian Sea curving around east and north from that point the UK was now firmly attached to Europe by land. While the UK had some of the very largest territorial gains in Europe as a result for the first time in its two millennia history was vulnerable to land armies.

Hitler is generous in his peace terms with Denmark, at least in his own opinion. Denmark agrees to become a 'protectorate' of Greater Germany and gets to retain King Christian X on the throne. They even get to retain their territory in the Baltic and a narrow slice of land west of Jutland. However they are allowed police forces only, no military of their own, and all local laws are subject to review and modification by Germany. The vast expansion of Denmark west of Jutland beyond the new line is conceded to Germany placing the majority of the Rhine River extension in German control and giving Hitler back the access to sea for his navy. Hitler immediately orders a new naval base be built at the new mouth of the Rhine on the Skagerrak gulf and soothes the UK and France with statements that all of his territorial ambitions have now been satisfied.

Further east Stalin is no longer the least bit concerned about the UK or France coming to the rescue of the former Baltic states which escaped the USSR at the time of its founding and takes the opportunity to invade Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia as well as Finland. The small states fall quickly and the exundated land in the Gulf of Finland and Gulf of Bothnia are easily seized, but when it comes to advancing into Finland proper the Red Army is far less successful. The unfortunate sailors of the Baltic Fleet whose ships were all stranded find themselves relabeled Red Army troops and on the front lines against the Finns who have more snipers than anyone had imagined possible before the war. Officers and Sergeants are effectively targeted and every time the Red Army advances a few miles it looses a dozen commanders. An Army without leaders is just a disorganized mob that isn't going anywhere fast.

In the far east Japan is able to seize nearly all of the new Chinese land and this gives them half of what they were seeking in their war against China, land to expand their population into. the other thing they desire, cheap Chinese laborers, is easily available in the portions of China already conquered and soon Japanese farms and businesses are popping up from Taiwan to Korea across the dry seas. The USA has more than enough to deal with in North America to keep it busy and the China War drops off the list of important political factors for the next few years.

On the spiritual front the Catholic faith is strongly boosted and many Protestant Christians and not a small number of non-Christians convert to Catholicism because they believe the Pope really is the conduit from God to Man on earth. This even leads to a large number of Muslims in the hardest hit areas converting, though it also hardens the resolve of the most devout Islamist's that this is all the work of Shaitan to mislead the masses away from the True Faith in Allah. Most of the Judaeo-Christian-Islamist faithful learn the story of Noah's flood from early childhood and the only thing that places special emphasis on the Papacy and Catholic division is the Pope's public warning to all Christians. This leaves more than enough wiggle room for the truly devout members of other sects within the overall belief in Jehovah/God/Allah of the Old Testament to remain within their own belief but for those doubters who want miraculous proof the Exundation is plainly what they were seeking on some level.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

December Guest Post: Smuts Enters Constantinople

This post originally appeared on Today in Alternate History

December 9, 1917

On this day in alternate history, the First Empire Army led by future British Prime Minister, Field Marshall Jan Smuts, captured Constantinople.

Back in May, Prime Minister David Lloyd George had sought a commander of a "dashing type" in order to inflict a crushing defeat of Ottoman Turkey and boost Allied morale. Unfortunately the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, which had once numbered a mighty three hundred thousand men, had been drained of resources for the struggle in Flanders. Before Smuts would agree to be George's hero, Smuts demanded, and was given, reinforcements from Australian Corps, Canadian Corps, NZ Division, Indians, and the new tanks to drive a campaign that General Haig, commander of the Western Front, didn't believe in.

Nevertheless, this decision to ensure a victory "of the Easterners" had still managed to enrage the other involved parties in Europe. Ultimately, the reluctant French were bought off with the promise of a French flag in Beirut and Alexandretta. However, General Haig, who was on particularly bad terms with Lloyd-George, had created a very great deal of dissent amongst the Tory back-benchers in the House of Commands. Later in the year, the situation in France would indeed deteriorate, although the arrival of American Forces would eventually overcome this set-back. Smuts, meanwhile, used his new resources to capture the heart, and then the whole of the eastern Ottoman Empire.

Of more lasting consequence was the effect on the plan to offer a Jewish Homeland. This endeavour was already imperiled by contradictory promises of sovereignty to various Arab Princes. Moving ever more centre stage, Smuts then recommended a relocation to copper-rich Northern Rhodesia, a proposal that was accepted with less resistance given that the indigenous people had even less say that the population of Palestine. To seal the deal, it was accompanied by a British guarantee of minority rights for religious Jews in an Arab Palestine.

By now an Imperial Statesman of the highest order, Smuts and his colleague Louis Botha were war heroes that had both played a key role in the victorious British Army during the Great War. Smuts would soon succeed Botha as Prime Minister of South Africa upon the death of the latter in 1919. Twenty years later, Smuts was invited to re-join the Imperial War Cabinet, and, in Westminster, he was talked about in private as a potential substitute for Winston Churchill should the old lion perish during war-time. The irony of this was of course that Churchill, despite being on good terms with Smuts, had conceived the earlier Dardanelles operation that had failed to capture Constantinople. Nevertheless, this contingency was put by Sir John Colville, Churchill's private secretary, to Queen Mary and then to George VI, both of whom warmed to the idea.

This contingency proved necessary when Winston Churchill suffered a fatal heart attack while staying at the White House as a result of the sinking of the Repulse and the Princes of Wales almost twenty-four years to the day that Smuts had entered Constantinople. Smuts would then lead the Empire to victory, but, by the end of the war, he confronted a new form of nationalism that would threaten his legacy both in South Africa and also in the Zionist Homeland he had helped to create.

Author's Note: In reality Smuts refused refused the command (late May) unless promised resources for a decisive victory, and he agreed with Robertson that Western Front commitments did not justify a serious attempt to capture Jerusalem. Allenby was appointed instead, and he did capture Jerusalem on this day OTL.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

1918 – German Occupation of former United States

The 1896 invention of the heat-killed cholera vaccine by German bacteriologist Wilhelm Kolle greatly improved those created by Catalan and Russian scientists in years before. It could be manufactured on a massive scale, outpacing the growth of any potential catastrophe if cholera spread into a local water system. When Kolle announced his development, the German Empire won worldwide acclaim, including adoration from Japanese saved during an epidemic in 1902.

Kolle continued his work, later written in the famous Experimental Bacteriology, to make a discovery that warped his mind with power: he could create his own strains of cholera resistant to other vaccines. If one of his strains were released, he alone would have the cure. At a top secret meeting with Kaiser Wilhelm II, it was agreed that such technology would be kept quiet and that it could be used to conquer the world.

After controlled tests in German colonies like the Samoan Islands and Kamerun, Wilhelm determined it was time to put the operation into its fullest potential on the most obvious target: the United States of America. The States had grown into a world power through its industrial development, although few in Europe took the young nation as seriously as other Old World empires. Millions of Germans had immigrated to America in search of work and better lives since the seventeenth century, giving Germany a strong cultural base of power already. A controlled plague would wipe out the others, leaving mineral wealth and even a large deal of the industrial core of the country intact.

German agents introduced the man-made cholera into key water systems in American major cities, beginning with the largest, New York City. Previous cholera epidemics had been contained through quarantines, but health officials were baffled as cholera continued to spread upriver to drinking supplies throughout the country. Like other countries, Germany quickly responded with medical aid, although the German Empire soon vastly outpaced the others in resources being sent to America. Most of these resources were dedicated to Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Midwest, and other areas where German nationals had settled.

The survival rates of the German immigrants as compared to those of other Americans grew suspicious. Anti-German sentiment rose, even sparking riots in Texas, but the American government was too dependent on German support to follow the outcry. Instead, American troops loyal to Germany helped suppress those fighting against the tightening grasp of the Kaiser. When increasingly advantageous treaties were granted to Germany, outright rebellion broke out in independently minded portions of the nation, particularly in the South. Militias formed to drive out “the Hessians” recalled Washington fighting German mercenaries during the American Revolution. Unfortunately, these militia camps soon found themselves devastated by cholera, and support vanished.

When the Archduke of Austria was killed by a terrorist in 1914, the Kaiser was so busy with plans for America that he barely commented on the unfortunate. Instead, he continued to exert control over the New World. The cholera epidemic spread to Mexico, whose own government was already in turmoil, and the people gladly joined as a new province in the German Empire in exchange for the near-mystical cure from Kolle’s vaccine.

After years of horrific death from coast to coast, the German empire began rebuilding what became known as “New Prussia.” Other empires were still fearful to venture into the area for their own colonization; Britain maintained a tight quarantine along the border with Canada. German supporters such as the Ottoman Empire, which was granted swaths of land in depopulated Florida, and Japan, which had retained close allies with Germany after its own epidemic. Austria tried its own hand at colonizing Baja California, although its own resources were limited after a short and brutal war with Russia ending much of Austria’s sway over the Balkans.

Formerly large cities in the United States became ghost towns renamed by their new rulers, from Nagaseattle in the northwest to New Hamborg that had once been New Orleans to New Potsdam, formerly New York. The most obvious was the change from Washington, D.C., to New Berlin, but the propaganda that flowed out of the new capital dripped with awe for the German “saviors” of the few that remained. There were many Americans who beat the cholera epidemic with their own immune systems, but those who attempted to stand up to German imperialism were rounded up and shipped to the “American Reservation” in what had once been New Mexico, watched over by tribal Native American forces.

In reality, this map was a Life Magazine production in response to a German propaganda leaflet.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

1918 – British Reconquest of America

The Third Plague began in Yunnan province in China in 1855, but it would be most remembered for its devastation of the United States in the first part of the twentieth century. Bubonic plague had ravaged Europe in the Black Death, and once again it wiped out millions, now in North America. The plague spread through nearly every human population on Earth, but as it arrived in San Francisco in 1900, a new strain developed that proved far more virulent.

The plague began with the familiar bubonic plague carried by fleas, which attached themselves to rats that stowed away on trans-Pacific vessels. These rats escaped into San Francisco harbor, soon spreading to humans. Somewhere among them, the plague became pneumonic. Now each infected victim became a new source with a cough or sneeze flinging fluid into the air. Before health officials could act, terrified Californians fled aboard trains, which only spread the disease further.

Later attempts at quarantine proved impossible as the disease had already spread so far and there was simply too much ground to cover as the bubonic plague made its way through mammal populations. Rural areas were particularly prone to bites from insects, but the bubonic strain was mild compared to the more deadly virulent pneumonic that wiped out urban centers. Uninformed victims never realized the difference between two, so sick people were transported to hospitals that otherwise may have avoided the effects.

Within a generation, the United States of America had fallen into disarray. The strong flow of immigration into the Land of Opportunity reversed until the navies of the world began a blockade to keep further Americans from escaping to spread the disease across the ocean. American leaders refused to travel, putting an end to national government. Soon deterioration of the railroads and telegraph further isolated communities. Local leaders became warlords to keep out neighboring populations, and towns that had depended upon trade to supply their industry soon vanished.

Eventually contained, the pneumonic strain wiped itself out. The continent was suddenly a blank canvas, ready for repainting. Armed with vaccines for the bubonic strain, the British Empire determined that it would reestablish order over what had become known as the “Wild West.” Japan, which had served in alliance with British fleets to contain the West Coast, signed a treaty for its own lands with a capital of New Yokohama built near the ruins of old San Francisco. The British built their own cities using scrap from the hollowed-out previous settlements, which largely had been burned to kill any remaining plague-bearing rats. Many were established with reverence toward the old, such as New Liverpool mirroring New Orleans or London-on-the-Potomac where representational American Parliament served in the same halls senators had in Washington, D.C. Other cities remained ruined for decades more, like the area once called Chicago being nicknamed “Dryrottingham.”

The former Canada, also devastated by the plague, was reorganized into a province of the new Dominion of North America, while Mexico continued as its own nation, though a protectorate under the Anglo-Japanese treaty. Many local warlords, some employing whole armies of gunslingers, fought against British reconquest, resulting in a massive prison district established in what had been west Texas, borrowing Federal forces from Mexico to serve as police.


In reality, this map was a WWI German propaganda leaflet, hoping to inspire distrust among the newcomer nation to the Allies. The pneumonic strain of the Third Plague pandemic stayed largely in Asia, where it did kill millions.

Monday, October 30, 2017

What if Washington Fought for the British?

"In his new book, Brent Harris imagines an alternate American revolution. In a change of fate, George Washington fights for the British while wrestling with his loyalties as he watches his countrymen struggle under the yoke of war...

"Washington’s nemesis, Benedict Arnold, seizes power and will stop at nothing to restore his family’s honor by driving the British out of the colonies. The fate of America is altered as these two titans clash on and off the battlefield."

Harris is a 2017 Sidewise Award Nominee for his short story, "Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon," in the anthology Tales from Alternate Earths.

See the full article from The Desert Trail

Check out A Time of Need: A Dark Eagle Novel

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Guest Post: Catherine's Handmaiden

This TL first appeared at Today In Alternate History

Catherine of Aragon's bold leadership in the King's Great Matter during the years 1527-9 laid the groundwork for the continued existence of the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, perhaps even the Catholic European Union itself that lasted into the third millennium.

Desperate for a male heir, King Henry VIII of England had set himself upon a destructive course of action that could well have torn up the British Isles. Although he had a freer hand in England, there were constraints in Ireland where his official role was Lord of Ireland, reigning only at the pleasure of the Pope. Fortuitously, the current Pope, Clement VII, had been a prisoner of Catherine's nephew, Emperor Charles V, since the Sack of Rome in May 1527. And before Henry could orchestrate the Irish Parliament to declare himself King of Ireland, Catherine received word that the Pope was about to appoint Charles V as Lord of Ireland.

Under the weight of this threat, Catherine was able to secretly negotiate an agreement under which she remained Queen and her lady-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn, would become Queen's Concubine. The scheme lay on a biblical foundation with the apparently barren Rachel being granted a son by Jacob through her handmaiden:
"So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife; and Jacob went in to her" ~ Genesis 30:4
Spared from the pressure of giving birth in a toxic court atmosphere, Anne Boleyn eventually produced a male heir to whom the succession could be delicately steered with the official support of Rome, who had little choice under Catherine's nephew's watchful eye. Henry, wildly supportive of his Catholic benefactors, became a vehement papist, which strengthened his popularity in Ireland, which eventually named him king there as well. Henry's fanaticism is cited as one of many reasons backing the Scottish Rebellion of the late sixteenth century, however, and much of Henry IX's long reign was spent in the quelling of Protestantism among the Scots.

The United Britain served as a bastion of the Church in Europe, supplying troops and money in the Thirty Years War that tore apart Germany, and around the world, such as working to colonize North America to beat out attempted colonies by the Protestant Dutch and Swedes. As Spain and Austria declined, Britain stepped up to become a leader among the Catholic nations. Europe was again torn apart in the nineteenth century by nationalistic wars, and the Church responded as effectively as it had with the Counter-Reformation by forming a politico-economic international bond through the Catholic European Union. Generations brought new technologies that improved travel and communication, and the initially symbolic CEU gradually became a powerhouse of governance for banking, industry, and development.

One such development was the announcement by His Britannic Majesty's Government of a sixty-mile fixed rail link under the Irish sea between Dublin and Holyhead that would open before the middle of the twenty-first century. The project had been under discussion as far back as 1890, when railway engineer Luke Livingston Macassey had proposed "a rail link using either a tunnel, a submerged 'tubular bridge' or a 'solid causeway.'" It remained a formidable engineering challenge even in the present day, particularly because the widest crossing point had been selected. The alternatives were certainly shorter in distance; however, the routes from Mull of Kintyre to County Antrim or Fishguard and Rosslare were of less strategic transporation value. Only the Dublin-to-Holyhead route could link up into a mid-country connection, tying together the two islands' central rail system and thereby running through London straight into the Catholic European Union.

Development funds from the CEU had been obtained and because the overarching goal was to bring the British Isles ever closer together, the name Blessed Queen Catherine Tunnel was eventually selected, a metaphor of the principle of indissolubility of union, even if circumstances may seem extreme.


Author's Note: After being banished from court, Catherine of Aragon lived out the remainder of her life at Kimbolton Castle, and died there on 7 January 1536. English people held Catherine in high esteem, and her death set off tremendous mourning.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

261 BC - Ashoka Unmoved

"Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Ashoka shines, and shines, almost alone, a star." - H.G. Wells

Upon the end of the Kalinga War, Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Dynasty of India went to survey his newly conquered domain. What he found was a horrifying sight:  his invading forces killed an estimated 100,000 people with another 150,000 carried away as slaves. The dead literally covered the ground between burned-out homes, and the Daya River ran red from the bloodshed. A woman approached Ashoka and said, "Your actions have taken from me my father, husband, and son. Now what will I have left to live for?"

Distraught, Ashoka looked out among the ashes, and there he saw a flower growing. Its bright face, looking up at the sun through the smoky sky, moved him. No matter the terrible destruction, he is said to have thought, a new and better world could grow up from it. Ashoka ordered the woman to become the flower's caretaker for the rest of her days. She would be executed if the flower perished for any reason.

This was one of many tales of violence in Ashoka's life. He had been born grandson of Chandragupta, the founder of the Mauryan dynasty who had united much of the empire Ashoka inherited. In the northeast, the empire butted up against that of Seleucus, one of the late Alexander the Great's generals. The two fought but eventually came to an alliance confirmed by marriage with Chandragupta giving 500 elephants while Seleucus gave his daughter as a bride. In the last years of his life, Chandragupta retired to become a monk, leaving the empire to Bindusara, Ashoka's father. Ashoka was hardly next in line for the throne with as many as ninety-nine half-siblings, but he would seize power for himself.

As a prince-general, Ashoka grew in prominence by crushing revolts and conquering in the southwest. When Ashoka's older brother Susima was pronounced the heir, Ashoka tricked him into falling into a pit filled with burning coals to eliminate him. Upon Bindursara's death, Ashoka killed every other claimant to the throne, except for his brother Vitashoka, who became a monk in the growing new religion based on the teachings of the Buddha. At the head of the empire, Ashoka became known as "Ashoka the Fierce" for his wars of conquest.

He was also famous for his rage, routinely having even ministers executed for offenses like "not being loyal enough." He built a torture-palace called Ashoka's Hell that, on the exterior, was covered in beautiful architecture and gardens. On the inside, prisoners had their mouths pried open by irons and boiling copper was poured down their throats. The chambers were modeled on depictions of Hell from Buddhism, which Ashoka had taken as his state religion after an ongoing feud with the Hindu Brahmin. This hell was led by Girika, whose cruelty was only matched by his loyalty to Ashoka; Girika had executed his own parents for balking when his position as executioner was announced. Girika even agreed that anyone who entered the palace would never leave alive, including himself.

In the ninth year of his reign, Ashoka targeted the peaceful neighboring country of Kalinga. It was a wealthy nation, built up by the strong middle class of artisans and seafarers trading with the lands to the southeast. The people participated in their government through a democratic parliament that supported a popular monarch. The noble people had driven away the army of Chandragupta generations before, so Ashoka determined to conquer without mercy.

With the fleet from Kalinga now at his command, Ashoka dispatched generals to continue his conquests to the east. Ashoka himself marched south to complete conquests of India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Throughout his empire, Ashoka built great pillars and made inscriptions upon boulders with his new view of dharma: build a better world, no matter the cost. He also supported his own branch of monks, sent as missionary-ambassadors to the courts of Ptolemy II Philadelphus in Egypt and Antiochus II Theos in Asia Minor. As far away as Athens, people began to recite analogies of cutting down a grove of trees to build a house. A legend of Ashoka himself states that he ordered his ministers to gather the heads of all kinds of animals, including a human; the ministers were then dispatched to the market to sell them. The minister with the dead human head was unable to sell it, nor was he even able to give it away for free. Ashoka replied, "If I make to bow a head so disgusting that none on earth would take it, what harm is there?"

Ashoka's power grew as he moved into the chaotic vacuum in the northwest when the Seleucid Empire declined. Beating down both the Parni and the Greco-Bactrians, Ashoka dominated central Asia. Controlling trade routes put Ashoka in communication with the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, many of whose famous Terracotta Army feature warriors in Indian dress. Ashoka greatly impressed the Chinese emperor by not only having his armies with elephants in the west but with ships arriving in the east through the Yellow Sea.

After thirty-six years of rule, Ashoka died and was cremated, with legends saying that his body burned continuously for a week upon the funeral pyre. His tightly wound system of government continued the expansive Mauryan Empire for centuries more, but it eventually fell under the blade of the Scythian hordes and the satellite colonies became empires in their own right, such as those that conquered America from the west.

Yet Ashoka did leave his lasting imprint: even the Scythians ascribed to his philosophy of hard-fisted Buddhism, as do many nations worldwide.


In reality, it is said that great regret came upon Ashoka as he viewed the devastation his armies had wrought upon Kalinga and the ongoing suffering of the survivors. The experience humbled him, and he took Buddhism as a personal belief toward a gentler life. His reign lasted another thirty years, during which peace was found over all India. His towering Edicts called for good deeds and respect for all creatures.

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